We share this one breath
We live different lives
A different path forward
same sky but different – liz suk
Did you catch this gorgeous view at sunset the other day? I simultaneously felt powerful and blessed as well as insignificant and small. It struck me as “same sky but different.” As I return from summer vacation, I find myself desiring a different speed of life. I first felt a tightness in my chest as I began to gear my brain back up after having actively drained my brain, body, and mind of all things related to work. Starting up again, I felt the weight of all the things I had previously held prior to the break begin to stack up and was amazed at my ability to be so high functioning.
What and, more importantly, who does it serve for me to carry so much burden? Not me, because I was burnt out and nightly disassociating by binging on my latest K-drama or on social media; forgoing staying present in my body to lay around and eat chips; skipping playing games with my children to take baths so I can fulfill my “self-care” routine.
Can you relate?
Exploration taught me that this was all a response to trauma I experienced as a child both as a witness and victim of domestic violence, the daily systematic and interpersonal acts of violence of racism and misogyny, and working to escape poverty. Compounding my lifetime of trauma is the trauma passed down from my parents and their parents because of war, occupation, and displacement. The one consistent attribute I was praised for is how high functioning and resilient I was and am. In spite of all I had been through in life, I could accomplish so much. I grew to thrive on the urgency of every crisis. Like if the apocalypse hit, I would be the one friends would want with them because I thrive on chaos. But functioning at that level every day has slowly deteriorated my quality of life. Every cell in my body now asks me to stop reacting to the world and these oppressive and violent systems and instead move to imagination and choice.
How do we do this when we are living with the continued deteriorating state of the earth and the worsening climate conditions, countless humanitarian crises due to ongoing war, colonialism and occupation, a global pandemic and deepening wealth inequalities leading to death and terribly dangerous and precarious living conditions for millions worldwide?
Can we ignore the ongoing decisions by the Mayor of Oakland’s decision to stoke fear and widen racial division in our city by requesting state funding for California Highway Patrol to infiltrate our city streets? Just one year ago CHP shot over 40 rounds into a car and killed Erik Selgado and injured Brianna Colombo, Erik’s girlfriend who eventually suffered a miscarriage as result. How do we not respond to the continuous suffering of Black and Brown communities in Oakland targeted by the police? How do we not respond to the growing unhoused populations? Pending evictions? Reopening in-person learning in schools without clear safety plans? How?
We don’t. We must respond. Lives of our loved ones and neighbors are continually under attack. Our lives depend on it. But we must live with the complexity of dismantling and creating at the same time. We must not only imagine but craft into existence a different world and not one that is only in response to these oppressive systems and the daily acts of violences but a world that is embedded in our DNA and seeded by our ancestors. One, where we return to understanding not just of resistance and struggle but liberation and creation. We must find solutions both small (like daily choices growing our food in local gardens and bartering) and large (like in policies and budgets that prioritize community resources over policing). We must find solutions like transformative justice practices that prioritize healing over war, incarceration, and punishment.
We share that same sunset sky – the same but different. We live together in this world and yet our daily experiences can differ so much. The impacts of inequities are present but our communities are strong and our histories tell us we know the way forward. We are willing to take the chances to build a safer world for everyone. As we begin to move closer to 2022 and the election cycle, where inevitably there will be a slew of ballot measures and candidates who will offer options for a response and solutions to the systemic issues we all face, we want to ground ourselves in building power. People power has brought down regimes, people power will build anew.
We can look up and imagine a new way of living daily. Daily we can move from urgency and response to a daily practice of living wholly and fully filled with love and compassion.
In the coming months you’ll see Oakland Rising move towards civic engagement that moves away from an extractive model based on white supremacist ways of thinking towards one that can be an invitation to our neighbors in Oakland and parts of Alamea County to join the movement to build people power. Together, we can craft a world built on racial, economic, and environmental justice. Arts and culture will play a critical role in our equitable democracy work. Please stay tuned and keep your eyes open to ways that you can plug in and volunteer in the coming months and into next year and beyond.